HOME FANS WAIT FOR TIAGO MONTEIRO'S CHARGE FROM 21ST ON THE GRID Street wise Tarquini and Muller star for SEAT Sport in Porto A dramatic qualifying session in Porto for Round 11 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship...
HOME FANS WAIT FOR TIAGO MONTEIRO'S CHARGE FROM 21ST ON THE GRID
Street wise Tarquini and Muller star for SEAT Sport in Porto
A dramatic qualifying session in Porto for Round 11 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship witnessed two red flags and numerous damaged cars, as the 25 cars aimed for an all-important grid position around the unforgiving wall-lined 4.7km street circuit. Gabriele Tarquini and Yvan Muller were the stars of the SEAT Sport team. Despite carrying +35kgs and +50kgs of weight handicap on their respective SEAT Leons, Tarquini held pole position when the session restarted after the second stoppage with 12 minutes remaining, but dropped down to 5th by the end, while Yvan qualified 6th.
There was drama within the first 10 minutes of the session. Michel Jourdain Jr spun at the tight final chicane and brought out the first red flag; he was fortunate not to hit the wall and he bravely put that frightening moment behind him to qualify 15th. Jordi Gene had a steering arm problem on his first lap, which saw him lose half the session in the pits while it was repaired. Thereafter, red and yellow flags and traffic ruined all his attempts at a good lap as he qualified 17th.
Local hero Tiago Monteiro clipped the wall when he came behind a slower car and spent over 20 minutes in the pits while the SEAT Sport crew repaired the rear right suspension. He stayed out when others came into the pits during a full course yellow, but he slid fractionally while at the final chicane and onto the loose surface off the racing line. His Leon hit the barriers, breaking what the team had just fixed. A wave to the crowd and a giant cheer from the packed grandstands was fitting for a brave effort, but almost all hopes of a home victory for Tiago have gone, as he will start the first of two WTCC races tomorrow from 21st on the grid.
Tom Coronel, the SEAT Netherlands powered by SEAT Sport official driver, has been brilliant all weekend -- setting second and third fastest times in the two Free Practice sessions. He continued this form in qualifying, finishing 4th and best-placed SEAT.
On his return to the WTCC after missing the last four races through injury, Roberto Colciago (SEAT Sport Italia Leon) qualified first in the Independents' Trophy. However, on his final flying lap he came around a blind flat-out sixth gear corner and slammed into the back of an unsighted Felix Porteiro (BMW), who was driving very slowly on the racing line towards the pit entrance. Both drivers were unhurt, but Colciago's car briefly caught fire and the team will make every effort to repair the badly damaged Leon in time for tomorrow's race day.
Independents' Trophy leader Pierre-Yves Corthals (SEAT Belgium Leon) qualified third in class, behind Stefano D'Aste (BMW).
Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT Leon nº 11): "My first sector wasn't perfect, but it was there or there abouts, and the rest of the lap was okay, so I am happy. It would have been very difficult and risky to try and improve, so when I was on pole I decided not to go out and save the car for race day. Even though I slipped to fifth, I think it was the right think to do."
Yvan Muller: (SEAT Leon nº12): "I am quite pleased to be sixth with fifty kilos of weight penalty, because everyone ahead of me, with the exception of Larini, is lighter than me. I am on the same pace as Gabriele, who is lighter, so I have a very good pace under the circumstances."
Michel Jourdain Jr (SEAT Leon nº10): "I was lucky not to hit anything when I spun at the chicane early in the session. After that it was important for me to complete a lap and put in a time, because I have seen it so many times on a street circuit that flying laps get ruined by yellow flags."
Jordi Gene (SEAT Leon nº 9): "Qualifying was very difficult for me, first with the steering arm problem and then, after repairs in the pits, I was delayed in traffic and also with the red and yellow flags. It is really disappointing, but I will try my best in the race."
Tiago Monteiro (SEAT Leon nº 18): "I came across a slower car in front of me and I wasn't sure if he was going to let me passed or not, so in that second I misjudged my braking at Turn 9 and clipped the wall. The guys did a great job to repair the car and I was on a good lap when I slid wide coming through the chicane. I got onto the marbles and hit the barrier. But you have to push in qualifying and on a street circuit this can happen. Now I will push hard in the race and see what I can do."